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Published: Wednesday, 2/25/2009

First Solar doubles profits in '08

BLADE STAFF

Sales nearly tripled and profits doubled last year at solar panel manufacturer First Solar Inc., of Tempe, Ariz., company officials said yesterday.

The Toledo-born firm, which has its lone U.S. plant and manufacturing re-

search operations in Perrys-

burg Township, reported revenues of $1.3 billion, up from $504 million in 2007. The firm had a profit of $348 million, or $4.24 a share, in 2008, compared with $158 million, or $2.03 a share, in 2007.

It also announced it had reduced the manufacturing cost for making solar modules to 98 cents per watt, breaking the under-$1 threshold that has been considered key to becoming more competitive with traditional electricity generating costs.

The firm began commercial manufacturing in 2004 and has increased its production capacity 2,500 percent to more than 500 megawatts last year. That capacity is to double again this year, the Arizona firm said. It is expanding its suburban Toledo plant.

The firm uses advanced thin-film manufacturing technology to produce glass panels for commercial solar-electricity installations.

Sales this year will be $1.8 billion to $1.9 billion, lower than the $1.99 billion analysts estimate, as the company invests up to $200 million in a solar project in Germany, a company executive said. That and other investments may reduce the 10 percent to 15 percent of 2009 shipments that are at risk of default, the firm said.

In the fourth quarter last year, it had a profit of $133 million, or $1.61 a share, on sales of $434 million. That compared to a profit of $63 million, or 77 cents a share, on sales of $201 million in 2007.

First Solar shares soared up 10 percent, or $12.84, to $137.68 each in trading yesterday on the New York Stock Exchange.



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